"The product was not good at all."
Numerous Pakistani influencers promote a variety of products on their social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, among others.
With the advent of the technological revolution and the rise in e-commerce, we are witnessing a shift towards digitalisation in all sectors, including businesses and services.
However, to prosper, innovative marketing strategies are essential.
This is where the role of social media influencers becomes pivotal.
Brands often compensate these influencers to endorse their products or provide them with free samples for trial.
The objective is to leverage the influencers’ reach and credibility to recommend these products to their extensive fan base and followers.
However, an interesting observation is that these influencers, possibly due to the perks they receive, are seldom seen criticising a product.
They maintain a positive stance towards any product sent to them for promotion.
Considering that not all products are up to the mark, this lack of critical review is questionable.
Promoting Bad Quality Products
DESIblitz conversed with Mubashira*, a Pakistani influencer, asking: “Is it true that influencers promote ineffective or cheap products?”
Her response was: “That’s not always the case. I have used products and recommended them to my audience, which turned out to be very good.
“But, there was one such brand that caused a breakout on my skin. The brand had already paid me to post a story, but I did not put up another recommendation for them.”
It’s important to note that this influencer had initially promoted the brand.
However, she did not feel obligated to inform her audience about its negative effects because she had already received payment.
Her reason for not doing this could be attributed to the existence of many such brands.
They are aware of their product’s ineffectiveness and would likely not prefer influencers who are overly ‘honest’.
“They would certainly not want to contact such influencers that will possibly paint them in a bad light and drive away potential customers. It’s just work.”
Personal Use of Products
We also conversed with Nimra*, inquiring whether she uses the products that she receives for PR or collaborations.
Her response was: “Have you seen Fawad Khan or Mahira Khan in Q Mobile ads?
“Do you think they use Q mobile? I think you have your answer.”
She further elaborated that while these products may or may not be good, she prefers using international products because they are more effective.
“There are many local companies producing products like sunscreens, etc., but the fact is they aren’t as effective as internationally lab-tested products.”
“International brands won’t work with Pakistani influencers, and it’s not like many people in this economy can afford them anyway. So, we promote what they can buy.”
Why Collaborate with Them?
We also conversed with some Pakistani influencers who had fewer than 100,000 followers.
We asked them why they collaborate with small businesses that sell replicas of expensive brands’ products.
Why not partner with companies that sell high-quality products?
Madiha*, residing in Karachi, responded: “Obviously, if I am promoting a serum from The Ordinary, they won’t hire me.
“But a small page selling the same [copy] product will.”
This suggests that they utilise the small pages selling unverified and untested quality products to grow their page.
Saira*, an influencer based in Lahore, told us: “Mostly, it’s small pages that sell them because creating a totally new brand requires capital and time.
“And it would take a lot for people to trust a new name, so they do the next thing possible.”
“They create master copies or buy discarded products from the companies themselves.”
“These products are discarded because there is definitely something wrong with them.
“Maybe there is a fault in the bottles or it could be an ingredient that was added more than required or suitable.
“It can also be an expired product and the dates are added by the companies selling them.”
We noticed numerous comments on an influencer’s reel, suggesting that the promoted brand has been involved in scamming people.
A member of DESIblitz, posing as an interested customer, contacted this brand to verify the allegations.
Upon inquiring about the payment procedure, the brand claimed that they did not offer the option of cash on delivery.
The voice note sent by their social media manager stated: “Ma’am, we take full advance payment because we have no COD account.”
However, they did confirm that they accept online payment options such as bank transfer, Easypaisa, or JazzCash.
In a country where cash on delivery typically costs around Rs. 200-250, this seemed quite unusual, particularly since people are generally hesitant to pay the full amount upfront.
If the brand is indeed legitimate, this approach could potentially deter customers.
We also discovered comments such as: “Please stop scamming people.”
Another comment read: “Placed an order months ago, where is it?”
Sending Incorrect Products
Numerous brands have faced accusations of delivering incorrect products.
In some instances, the received product bears no resemblance to the one depicted in the image.
One customer shared their experience, stating: “I ordered this from them and this is what they sent me.”
They attached a photo of a completely different product.
The customer questioned: “It was recommended by Dua*. Why would you promote a scam page?”
Another individual shared their story: “This brand sent me the wrong article.
“I paid in full via cash on delivery, however it wasn’t what I needed.
“They replied to me swiftly saying that I could send it back to them and they would send a replacement. I sent the product back and since then I haven’t heard from them.”
DESIblitz has engaged in conversations with several individuals about their experiences with counterfeit products endorsed by Pakistani influencers.
One such customer, Warisha, shares her experience: “I purchased some skincare from a page that was recommended by an influencer that has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram.
“They claim that they sell completely original products.
“Surprisingly, the reviews were also good. However, when I received the products, they turned out to be extremely good dupes.
“I have relatives in the United States who often bring the same articles.”
“That’s how I knew that they were fake when I compared the original empty bottles to the ones I received from the brand.
“There were only minor differences, which couldn’t be spotted by people who didn’t usually use original ones.
“I tried reaching their customer support for an exchange or return, but they never responded.”
“I then contacted the influencer who recommended them. She acted all shocked and said, ‘OMG, I didn’t know they were fake. I also bought from them last month.’
“However, she still has the PR highlight from them. This is a very big e-store we are talking about. Almost every influencer is promoting them.”
Influencers Receiving Different Products
DESIblitz also discovered from several customers that unboxing videos by certain Pakistani influencers often influenced their purchasing decisions.
However, the received product was entirely different from what was showcased.
Amna shares her experience: “The packaging was different. The bottles were different. The product was not good at all.
“From this, I gathered that they sent somewhat differently packed items to influencers to look good and fool people into buying them.”
“I contacted the influencer who had recommended it and showed her the products, but she never reached back, and the brand has still been in her Instagram highlights since then. She never removed it.”
Reselling at a Premium
It has been observed that many influencers are promoting products from brands or companies owned by their friends or family members.
We also discovered that some influencers were endorsing their brands.
It was unveiled that they procured inexpensive makeup from Chinese wholesale platforms like Alibaba.
Subsequently, they affixed their signature labels on the bottles and marked up the prices significantly.
A review on one such brand associated with an influencer stated:
“I ordered Jojoba oil from this brand and just unboxed it. Everyone knows that jojoba oil has either a nutty smell or is completely odourless.
“What they sent me, smells like common olive oil and they charged me triple the price of it in the name of the other fancy oil.”
Personal Discount Codes
Many influencers also possess personal discount codes, which yield them benefits whenever a purchase is made using these codes.
This raises the question: Would they ever criticise a brand that compensates them for promoting their products?
Zainab shares her experience: “I bought a Recommended product from an influencer’s link that they posted.
“The product was smaller than shown and was completely different when using it.”
“It was said to be perfume-free and had no white cast. But it did have a smell and left a white cast on my face. I paid seven thousand rupees for it.”
In light of these discussions, it is crucial to thoroughly examine products before purchasing.
Not everything presented or stated online is necessarily truthful, and conducting your research is vital.
Reviewing page reviews, brand comment sections, and mentions can help mitigate the risk of fraud and scams.